English private schools are being used in a visa scam by traffickers to smuggle Vietnamese schoolgirls into the UK so they can work as wage slaves, a Times of London investigation has found.
The UK permits children from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to study at private schools in the country on the Tier 4 visa.
The Times found that, since 2015, at least 21 Vietnamese children joined private schools on the visa, but vanished from boarding houses or homes without trace, some in the dead of night, after as little as one semester of study.
The news comes amid an investigation into the harrowing discovery of 39 dead Vietnamese migrants in the back of a haulage truck in Essex, England, in mid-October.
The schools charge fees as high as £25,000 (around $32,000) per year. If girls left after only one term, they may only have paid around a third of the annual rate.
Schools which confirmed to the Times that Vietnamese girls in their care have disappeared since 2015 were:
- Brooke House College, Leicestershire.
- Chelsea Independent College, London.
- Abbey College, Worcestershire.
- DLD College, London.
- Cambridge Tutors College, London.
- Two branches of Bellerbys College, one in London and one in Brighton.
In one case at Abbey College, a 15-year-old girl from the Quang Ninh province joined the school in September 2017 but did not return after the Christmas holiday.
The Times report she was found working in a cash-only nail bar in Yorkshire a year later.
A former teacher with the Bellerbys school group told the Times: “On holidays they wouldn’t come back: there would be no answer on the phone. It was a loophole: someone realised this was a way of getting Vietnamese girls into the system.”
The Times found that the UK Home Office approved 220 Tier-4 visas for Vietnamese citizens in 2017.
Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the UK parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, told the Times:
“To have children coming thousands of miles from home supposedly to learn but in fact being shipped into slavery in Britain is unthinkable.”